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September 29, 2022

 

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Descendants of antifascists and Holocaust victims call on Czech MP Andrej Babiš to resign, including the Museum of Romani Culture director and the grandson of a Romani partisan

12.8.2022 11:31
Czech MP Andrej Babiš (left) and theater producer Břetislav Rychlík (right). (2022) (Collage: Romea.cz)
Czech MP Andrej Babiš (left) and theater producer Břetislav Rychlík (right). (2022) (Collage: Romea.cz)

A group of eminent figures in the Czech Republic has called on the chair of the Association of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) movement, MP Andrej Babiš, to leave public life after he called his opponents "Fascists and Nazis" during one of his recent rallies; the signatories to the challenge include descendants of those who fought against Nazism, relatives of Holocaust survivors, and those who were dissidents during communist totalitarianism in the former Czechoslovakia. Director and university educator Břetislav Rychlík, one of three guarantors of the signatures on the challenge, delivered it to the Czech News Agency (ČTK) yesterday. 

Babiš, who is a former prime minister, reiterated to ČTK yesterday his claim that his statement had been a shorthand reference to a commentary published in the daily newspaper Právo. He has since admitted his remark was inappropriate. 

However, he has also alleged that those who are opposed to him in the South Bohemian Region violated his right to freedom of speech during his rallies there. The challenge to him reads in part: "We are the descendants and the relatives of those who, during the Second World War, one of the most tragic times for our country, were murdered, tortured, went through the hell of the concentration camps, fought, bled, and gave their lives to combat German Nazism both on the eastern and the western fronts, in the domestic and in the international resistance."

"Your comparison has greatly offended us and insulted our families," states the challenge, which has been signed by the director of the Museum of Romani Culture, Jana Horváthová, and the grandson of the Romani partisan Josef Serinek, Zdeněk Serinek. Other signatories include the former Royal Air Force pilot Jiří Pavel Kafka, the actor Petr Forman, whose grandparents died in a concentration camp, and Charter 77 signatory and dramatist Milan Uhde. 

Uhde's grandparents were also murdered by the Nazis. The challenge is also supported by Zdena Mašínová, the daughter of an anti-Nazi resistance fighter whose brothers took up arms against the communist regime as well. 

Rychlík, who initiated the petition, is the grandson of an anti-Nazi resistance fighter and the nephew of a gulag prisoner who was a member of a Czechoslovak Army corps in the Soviet Union. The signatories are warning that Babiš made his statement at a time when "denazification" is being alleged as the pretext for Russian troops to invade Ukraine. 

Such "weaponizing" of the concepts of Fascists and Nazis is, according to the signatories, exceptionally dangerous in such a situation. They believe the only solution is for Babiš to resign. 

The descendants of Holocaust survivors believe that the former PM could atone by making a pilgrimage to all of the former concentration camps in Europe run by the Nazis. In their challenge, the signatories say that they are ready to plan the route of such a trip for him. 

They also say he should follow the example of the resignation of the former Civic Democratic Party (ODS) chair and former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek after he made controversial statements about the church, Jewish people and the LGBT community during a photography session for LUI magazine. The remarks made by Babiš last week about his opponents in South Bohemia were: "That's the Fascists and Nazis. [...] That's the voters of SPOLU [the coalition of the ODS, TOP09 and the Christian Democrats] and PirSTAN [the Pirates and the "Mayors and Independents" party]. That's the people who are dangerous." 

Babiš now claims to have been referencing a commentary published in the daily newspaper Právo that analyzed the "right to disrupt public gatherings", a commentary which stated that historically, the Fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany both began, to a large extent, by violently disrupting meetings held by their political competitors, and reiterated yesterday to ČTK that when he entered into a "quite unfriendly environment among vulgar, aggressive opponents", he became emotional and mentioned the commentary from Právo in this abbreviated way. "It wasn't appropriate, I regret it," the former PM said. 

The lawmaker also said he believes his opponents violated his freedom of speech at several stops during his South Bohemian tour, and that he believes ANO supporters frequently did not feel safe at those rallies because of his opponents' verbal assaults. He has been touring the Czech Republic since the start of the summer. 

Babiš has denied that these rallies are in fact a campaign for the 2023 presidential elections. During his meetings with the public, clashes and heightened emotions between his opponents and his supporters are dominating the events.  

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Andrej Babiš, Fascism, Holocaust, Nazism



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